Hands off workers #HandsOff #StopTheAttacks #StopRedTagging

UE, Global Unions Take Action Against Violent Repression of Trade Unions in the Philippines

On Human Rights Day, December 10, UE joined hundreds of other unions throughout the world in taking action to support the working people of the Philippines, where trade unionists and activists are facing increasing repression and violence.

UE’s officers sent a letter of protest to Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, condemning the recent raids and arrests of trade union leaders in the Philippines and urging him to stop the attacks on trade union organizations and labor activists. Over 250 people took action on the Action Network letter-writing campaign set up by the UE Research and Education Fund, sending their own letters to Duterte.

UE’s ally in the Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), reports that under President Duterte, the very basics of unionism — “organizing, asserting the right to collectively bargain and [ … ] strikes against management abuses and exploitative company policies” are being treated as “criminal acts.” Union members and leaders have been spied on, profiled, portrayed as terrorists, arrested and targeted for assassination by police and paramilitary groups. 43 unionists have been killed since the beginning the Duterte administration.

Many of those targeted have been “red-tagged,” or labeled as “communist” or “terrorist” regardless of their actual beliefs or affiliations — not unlike the red-baiting attacks leveled at the UE in the 1940s and 50s. The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned the widespread use of “red-tagging” to suppress dissent in the country. UN officials noted recently that “The criminalizing discourse used by Philippine public officials undermines the value of the vital work of human rights defenders, denigrates them in the eyes of the public and may put them at risk of threats, violence or other forms of harassment.”

The letter from UE’s officers noted that “Our own union came under similar threats 70 years ago, with members of the US Congress and other elected officials falsely accusing our leaders of seditious activities. In some instances, they tried to prevent our members from doing their work because of their alleged associations. Our members knew that these attacks were simply attempts to disrupt worker solidarity so that the boss could get the upper hand. We resisted those abuses of our organization then, and we know that unions in the Philippines will stand strong against infringement of their rights now.”

Actions around the world were coordinated by the global manufacturing union federation IndustriALL, of which UE is a member, along with global union federations in other sectors. IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanchez and officers from global union federations from the construction, communications, and public sectors met with the Philippines UN Mission Ambassador Evan Garcia in Geneva, conveying that the trade union movement globally is concerned about the situation.

“We met with an activist dragged from her home by state operatives,” said Teresa Casertano from the Communications Workers of America, who heads the Information, Communications, Technology, and Services division of the global union federation UNI. “She was one of 57 individuals who were rounded up in October. We find this chilling.”